Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Troubadourish Mountaineering

Well, the new Biblioasis Blog is already proving to be too damn much fun. David Helwig, in a post about writing pantoums, said that he'd been challenged by a friend to write a canzone as well, but declined. I put in a little shot about him not being up to the task, to which Dan Wells responded that if I was going to drop the gauntlet thus, I'd better have a canzone up my own sleeve. Having nothing else to occupy my time this morning--nothing that couldn't be put off, that is--I set about the task, following the scheme that Auden used for his mountaineering bash at the form. I took a great deal more liberties than Auden did and had a ball in the process. I got started by pinching five words from Mike Barnes' poem "When His Mom Found a Lover in the Neighbourhood" (since it was posted on the blog, I thought it an appropriate place to get them); those words became the five end-words used to end the 65 lines of the canzone. Having nothing resembling a subject to write about, I started off answering Auden's initial rhetorical question and followed up with a very, um, meta-poetical discourse. Hope it's half as fun to read as it was to write. Unfortunately, David surrendered without firing a shot.


I don’t think I’ll ever learn; I’m always
Biting off too big a chunk, finding myself under-
Equipped—that mo-ped goof putputting down the highway’s
Fastlane convinced his Rocinante nag’s a way
More impressive machine than it is, with more
Power than a hundred Arab horses—to thread the ways
Wended by the big boys, always
Stumbling blind, as through a maze, no means to leave,
No strategy to break the weave of branches and leaves
Some clever bugger designed and made
To trap me. Catch is, that bugger’s me, I’ve made

This maze and caught myself, just as I’ve made
All the problems that ensnare me. I always
Do this, I’m like a bee attracted to pomade,
Expiring in an over-gooped hairdo, drowning in limeade
For following my nose to sugar, crushed under
A tire for schnozzing up a roadside flower. Unmade
By drink and lust, slapped down by every barmaid
On this coast, I still keep coming back for more—
And all I get is more
Rejection. Well, I guess I’m lying in the bed I made,
To cadge a clichéd phrase. I should probably leave
Now, but I don’t want to leave,

Not just yet, there’s work to do before I leave
For good. I don’t want to quit until I’ve at least made
Something of myself. I find it hard to believe
This world’s such an awful place of unrelieved
Tedium and pain as some poets seem to always
Say it is. If that’s how you feel, please leave
It for the rest of us to love and cleave
To. Me, I like to wander streambeds, poking under
Stones to see what creeps and crawls beneath the under-
Story, what clings to the shady side of leaves.
No matter how much I see and learn, there’s more
Waiting at the stream’s next turn, so much more,

Even in the acidic pine-needle mor
Strewn on the forest floor. So please, believe
Me when I say there’s more
To this than mere survival on a soulless, mor-
ibund sphere. Yes, we kill, but look at all we’ve made.
Nothing’s killed that’s not reborn—sometimes more
Beautiful than it was before, or at least no more
Evil. This is how it’s always
Been, change the only constant, always
Shifting, ever flowing, like a stream—but more
Like the old man’s river: no new thing under
The sun and no great harm in blunders.

Yeah, I know, I’m nothing but a dunder-
Headed fool with no more
Sense in my skull than a child, but wonder
Trumps sense so often, I can’t help but wonder
If children don’t know more than we do. Believe
What you like, but don’t under-
Value strangeness and love; listen to the thunder
Abaft your mother’s breastbone. The world’s not made
For you, but you can make it yours if you’ve made
The right commitments and plundered
What you need. There’s always
Time to change tack and find new ways

To travel trammeled roadways.
Now I part with you, this thing I made,
But before I take my formal leave,
I would like to have just one more
Line, and then I’ll wriggle out from under…

Update: AUDIO
of "Canzone."